So you want to eat healthy on a small budget? Well, who wouldn’t? – But in these hard times, it’s not so easy, is it? When money is tight and time to prepare nutritious family meals is limited, it’s all too easy to be fooled into buying unhealthy, high-fat, pre-packaged foods. These often look like the cheapest option – but is that really the case, and what is their true cost in terms of our overall health and well-being?
Legumes are a great way to improve the quality of our diet and the great thing is that they can save us money too. Legumes are the family of foods that includes dried beans, dried peas, and lentils. They’re high in fiber, high in protein, low in calories and can help lower cholesterol, so all in all they’re just a great healthy food that’s also filling and cheap.
But surely dried beans take ages to prepare with all that soaking and cooking? – That’s true, but now all good supermarkets have a wide range of canned legumes that are just as nutritious, yet very cheap and also very quick to prepare. For example, my own easy bean stew recipe takes me no more than half an hour from prep to table (see link below).
However, it would be wrong to discount dried beans and legumes just because of the prep time, after all they are so cheap that I always have a supply of different varieties in my pantry when I have had time to plan meals ahead. Planning is key here, if I know I’m going to make a bean dish tomorrow I just put the beans in a bowl of water before I go to bed. As soon as I get home from work the next day, I change the water and put them on the stove to cook and they’re ready to be incorporated into my meal when I’m ready to start the main prep . Really easy but just requires a little forethought.
Aside from their inherently healthy properties, legumes also improve our diet in other, more subtle ways. Legumes are generally very filling, to compensate we usually tend to use less meat in the dishes we prepare with legumes. This can reduce the overall amount of bad cholesterol in the meal, but also by filling stews, soups and casseroles, legumes can mean the same amount of expensive meat fills more plates, which again isn’t a bad thing. Taking it a step further, legumes traditionally form the basis of some of the best vegetarian dishes. So if you’re looking for a way to cut back on meat or eliminate it altogether, legumes are the way to go.
If, like many of us, you’re struggling to make ends meet and your weekly shopping budget never seems to fill your shopping cart, why not let legumes give you a little boost? Your family probably already loves a good chili con carne full of nutritious red beans, so you’re halfway there. Why don’t you try mine? Easy bean stew recipe Or are you experimenting with different types of beans and lentils and a few herbs and spices? With a little effort, you could easily add a whole new repertoire of tasty dishes to the family menu. They don’t even need to know that you’ve saved a bundle while providing them with healthy food on a budget!
Thanks to Des Greene